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A new documentary is set to expose the US branch of Australian megachurch Hillsong, which was a hotspot for Christian celebrities including the likes of Justin Bieber.
However, while the church may have helped the likes of Bieber, Chris Pratt and Selena Gomez, upcoming documentary Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed is set to explore Lentz' downfall, from his admission of cheating on his wife and expulsion from the church, to accusations of abuse, dodgy finances and poor working conditions.
Take a look at the trailer below:
The idea of the 'neo-Pentecostal' megachurch developed out of Sydney Christian Life Centre which was led by co-founder Brian Houston's father, Daily Beast reports.
Contemporary music was used to build a following of younger congregants, with Hillsong even having its own record label.
The male-led megachurch was ultimately focused on business and televangelism - the use of media to communicate Christianity - and it always had its sights set on North America.
Lentz was previously a pastor at Wave Church in Virginia Beach before he joined Hillsong. He is reported as being a strong advocate of 'purity culture' - a subculture of the religion which saw women pledge to their fathers that they would refrain from sex until marriage.
A woman who used to attend Wave described being 'put in [her] place' under Lentz's control.
Another stated that after just three months of seeing a man, Lentz pressured her into marrying him because she had sex with him.
The documentary also shows a clip of Lentz reflecting on how husbands have to 'get in there early' with women because they are formed by their fathers, something he cites as being told by his own father.
While the woman that Lentz had an affair with, Ranin Karim, a New York fashion designer, is featured in the series, his former nanny who claimed that he sexually assaulted her for six years, isn't. Lentz denied the accusation.
The three-part series features interviews with religious experts, journalists, and former members of Lentz's congregation.
However it doesn't just focus on Lentz and the women he traumatised, but also the wrongdoings of co-founder Houston.
Off the back of claims against him of inappropriate behaviour, Houston resigned from the church this week.
He is portrayed by the documentary as having used Lentz has a 'scape goat'.
On its website, Hillsong addresses the two complaints against Houston, noting that it is 'a church that believes in grace, love, restoration and integrity; these are our guiding values..'.
People often mention the bad theology at Hillsong but I think the distinct culture plays a bigger role in what is going on there. I went to a Hillsong church in college and saw it firsthand. It is worth examining how their culture enabled these scandals.— Devonsworth (@devonsworth) March 19, 2022
According to the church, one complaint occurred from when the pastor was 'under the influence of sleeping tablets' and another when 'disorientated' after taking 'anti-anxiety medication beyond the prescribed dose, mixed with alcohol'.
It stated: "We apologise unreservedly to the people affected by Pastor Brian’s actions and commit to being available for any further assistance we can provide.
"[...] Our Interim Global Senior Pastors, Phil and Lucinda Dooley, are doing an amazing job under difficult circumstances. We want to thank them and ask you to keep praying for everyone involved and for our church. We love you and thank you for your ongoing support."
While going further into the lives of Lentz and Houston, the documentary ultimately looks at the church's climb in becoming a global brand, its overall toxic culture, abuse allegations and the financial greed of its founders and leaders.
The documentary premiered on Discovery+ today, 25 March.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact The Survivor’s Trust for free on 08088 010 818, or through their website thesurvivorstrust.org
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